Dan Lipton, An Officer and a Gentleman music supervisor, arranger and orchestrator, assures fans of the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, which starred Richard Gere, Debra Winger and Louis Gossett Jr., that the musical stays true to the storyline.
On March 11, 2020, casting for the workshop reading of the musical An Officer and a Gentleman was a go. And then Broadway shut down the next day.
In April 2020, the first script reading of An Officer and a Gentleman was moved from in-person to Zoom.
“And then the world went silent,” said Dan Lipton, An Officer and a Gentleman music supervisor, arranger and orchestrator. “I honestly thought, at that point, that the project would just disappear. But our team at Work Light Productions decided that we would forge ahead. And, with their financial resources and logistical know-how, we were able to have the workshop.”
That was in November 2020, pre-vaccine days. So 18 cast members and 10 creatives from the production team went into a quarantined bubble in Cleveland to hold the in-person script workshop. For three weeks, they only went back and forth from the hotel to the rehearsal hall.
“That workshop is the reason why the show exists and why we are able to go out on tour,” said Lipton, who has been the music director for many Broadway legends including Kelli O’Hara, Audra McDonald, Brian d’Arcy James, Sherie Rene Scott, John Lithgow, Judy Kuhn and for Sting’s The Last Ship.
The first U.S. tour of An Officer and a Gentleman launched on Oct. 15, 2021, in Elmira, New York, and will come to Detroit’s Fisher Theatre Feb. 1-13. Prior to this production, previous versions of the musical were performed in Australia in 2012 and the U.K. in 2018.
“The show is all about the American military, so it’s very appropriate that we’re finally putting it on in the U.S.,” says Lipton, who grew up in a cultured, upper-middle-class Jewish family in New Jersey and received his music composition degree from Northwestern University. “My songwriting heroes — Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin, Stephen Schwartz, Marvin Hamlisch and Oscar Hammerstein — were all Jewish.”
As a kid, Lipton, 46, attended Broadway shows, performing arts summer camp, the high school preparatory division of Mannes School of Music in New York City and watched MTV.
“Those MTV hits are burned in my head. The fusings of that and listening to my uncle’s record collection is a big part of my work and life. That shaped my cultural diet and my musicality,” Lipton says.
True to the Film
Lipton assures fans of the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, which starred Richard Gere, Debra Winger and Louis Gossett Jr., that the musical stays true to the storyline. Resilient U.S. Navy trainee Zack Mayo (played by Wes Williams on tour) is put to the test by Drill Sgt. Foley (David Wayne Britton) while loved and supported by Paula Pokrifki, a local factory worker (Mia Massaro).
“The show has all of the bones of the movie, but we’ve updated it to be a more accurate representation of America in 2021. We’ve addressed today’s gender and racial dynamics and have done inclusive casting and empowered the characters. And even though it’s all about the American military, the show presents patriotism without the divisive politics,” says Lipton, who credits the comic relief in the show to actor KD Stevens who plays Jewish character “Cohen.”
Lipton was responsible for all musical decisions, which included casting, choosing the perfect playlist of ’80s hits, securing the licensing rights and then putting his talents to work on creating new vocal mash-ups and arrangements. Audiences can look forward to hearing the iconic Grammy and Oscar-winning No. 1 hit “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the movie and other favorites by Steve Winwood, Pat Benatar, Debbie Gibson, Richard Marx, Bananarama, Survivor, Corey Hart, Carly Simon, Rush, Rick Springfield, Men at Work and Styx.
As the man wearing the three hats of music supervisor, arranger and orchestrator, Lipton regularly drops in to check on the show at different tour stops.
“I’m the eyes and ears in the house — the guy who roams the lobby and the bathroom, eavesdropping on the audience comments,” Lipton jokes. “You should come see the show to elbow your date when your favorite ’80s hit pops up in our story. All over the country, I can tell we’re hitting a pop-music sweet spot, while telling a timeless romantic story. It’s been very gratifying.”
Performance times for An Officer and a Gentleman appearing Feb. 1-13, 2022, at the Fisher Theatre, located at 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit are Tuesday through Saturday evening performances at 8 p.m., Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2 p.m., Sunday evening performance at 7:30 p.m. and an open-captioned performance on Sunday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $39 and include facility and parking fees. Tickets can be purchased online at ticketmaster.com and in person at the Fisher Theatre Box Office.
Broadway In Detroit patrons will be required to show proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the performance date or proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before they will be admitted into the venue. Additionally, all patrons will be required to wear a mask while inside the theater regardless of one’s vaccination status.